In 1949, George Braque began to experiment with the motif of birds in flight. Braque found countless variations, showing the bird on its own, together with others, and in this case, within a painted frame. During the summer of 1955, Braque visited a bird sanctuary in Camargue, an experience that furthered his interests and led to a composite motif in his own design.
The subject inspired Duncan Phillips, who in 1959 wrote to Braque after seeing an example in Cahier d’Art (1956–57), “I saw the reproduction of a very fine graveur of a bird by you. It struck me as so beautiful with such a great universal feeling and design that I could not forget it. Therefore I have summoned the courage to ask if it would be possible for you to repeat this on a larger scale as an overdoor panel for our new building.” Braque approved the concept and Pierre Bourdelle executed the low relief sculpture that welcomes museum visitors to this day. Six years later, shortly before Phillips’s death in 1966, he acquired this painting, his last by Braque, from an exhibition at the museum called Birds in Contemporary Art, curated by Marjorie Phillips.